Barça 5 – Mallorca 0, as it could have gotten even Messier

Whose heart was not warmed by the applause Eric Abidal received when he started warming up on the sidelines in the 55th minute? Whose heart did not jump with joy when he finally got on a quarter of an hour later? Whose heart did not pause with awe at the grace with which he plucked his first ball from the sky?

This review should be about one man. I feel like putting up a second post with ten pictures of Abidal on the pitch and do the same for every single match he plays this season. Or maybe I should just link to the utter awesomeness that apparently passes as previews on this website and get on with the match report.

Your strength is our strength
Your strength is our strength

With the king of the dancefloor, Lionel Messi, unable to attend his homecoming, party boy Tito sent out invitations to Pinto, Montoya, Piqué, Bartra, Dani Alves, Song, Thiago, Iniesta, Tello, Cesc and Alexis.  Their mission? To rock the Camp Nou! Mallorca knew it was our show and were kind enough to provide us with eleven players as decoration.

From the get-go you could tell they were serious. Nobody standing still to watch Leo show off his moves meant that everybody got into the groove. Iniesta didn’t miss a beat and provided Tello with a would-be assist in the opening minutes, had his shot not lacked strength and precision. Thiago almost did likewise, using that Brazilian half of his right foot (the outside) to set up the Maneater again, but this time the defense was quick to close down the space and shut down the goal opportunity.

Like a street car named Desire
Like a street car named Desire

A pattern was quickly established during those first 15 minutes. Barça attacked with the ball and gave their opponents little to no respite when we ceded possession, as we forced them into making mistakes and picked off their passes with ease.

Iniesta was majestical both offensively, avoiding defenders to probe their fortress with arrow-like passes, and defensively, slashing down possible attacks like the ruler of an army. Hell, even Tello had fun running after the ball when he lost it. The few times Mallorca did get through there was always Song, whose tackles put “no” in the heart of any opponent that might get overly ambitious.

In the meantime Cesc Fàbregas filled in for the best football player of the world as our false nine, a position he played with admirable intelligence, cleverly moving in between the lines and distributing the ball within one or two touches.

BOOM*
Song. Boom*

The rest of the first half belonged to the Men of the Match, Cesc and Alexis.

First our number 4 found the Chilean for a quick one-two that resulted in the first goal of the evening. Sanchez’s pass was simply beautiful, and if up until then he had been actively involved but very inefficient**, over the next half hour he more than proved his worth.

Goal number two came immediately after. Lexus won a header from Bartra’s long ball, immediately received the ball back from Dani Alves and passed it to the Brain in the middle of the park. Ghostface found Maneater on the left flank, who blasted past his defender to play a low cross across the box that got blocked before it made its way to Fàbregas. Montoya and Iniesta recycled the ball right back to our nominal striker and Cesc tried the keeper with a low hard shot. Dudu Aouate*** could not hold on to the ball and Sanchez put the rebound in the net for our second goal.

Don't worry. There's more to come...
Don’t worry. There’s more to come…

Perhaps as a result of not having Messi on the pitch, our play became a lot more vertical during this period the game, as we repeatedly tried to open up on the flanks with long balls to Tello or Dani Alves. We did give up a couple of shots on our end, however, and we were lucky to escape a penalty when Alcântara handled the ball, although it would have been a very harsh call indeed.

Ironically it was the momentary return of tiki taka that led to our third goal. Cesc combined with Iniesta for some short one-time passes in the midfield. He then moved the ball forward to Thiago, who gave it back, and moved it forward to Niño Maravillo, who provided the final pass. Score three – zero, after the kind of goal that was surprisingly similar to the ones we are used to seeing from the Flea.

Be that as it may, the Great Impersonator immediately returned the favor to his assist maker, who controlled the deep pass with his right and finished with his left. Whose heart did not smile when after celebrating with his teammates on the pitch he ran to the sideline to hug none other than Eric Abidal?

lexus shhh
Has Sanchez finally silenced his critics?

Up by four into the break with seemingly nothing left to play for. All too often games that are decided in the first half turn extremely boring in the second, and understandably so. This was not one of those games, as we started where we left off when Cesc scored a peach of a goal to complete both the manita as well as his first ever hat-trick as a professional footballer.

Five minutes later Jonathan Dos Santos came on for Iniesta.  JDS gets a lot of flack round these here parts (and elsewhere) or refusing to go on loan and play more minutes elsewhere. I understand the criticism but do not fully share it. The boy simply wants to succeed at the club of his dreams more than anything else, even if he doesn’t have a chance in hell at doing so. He was “rewarded” with forty minutes on the pitch – forty minutes that he furthermore shared with his ex-blaugrana brother, Giovanni. While no Iniesta, he played pretty well and I hope he will get at a start in one of the last games of the season.

Next came on Gerard Deulofeu, the prospect judged most ready to make the jump to the first team. I don’t watch our second team myself, but if the stories are to be believed he has outgrown Barça B.  A quick look at youtube compilation videos certainly seem to support that particular theory, but in my opinion he has a long way to go to be worthy of a place in our squad.

Doubtlessly gifted, he too often tries to take on one or more defenders by himself with his dribbles. Whereas this might work well for him in the second division, I have yet to see him get past his marker in a Liga game. He will definitely have a lot of growing up to do when he gets promoted next season. Let’s hope for the best!

Too good for Barça B, not good enough (yet) for Barça A
Too good for Barça B, not good enough (yet) for Barça A

The final substitution was of course the one we had all been waiting for. After 402 days of not playing, his winning goal at the Bernabeu in January 2012 proving to be one of our last (and lasting) memories of the King, Eric Abidal finally made his way back on the pitch to represent the club we all love.

Better men than myself have written about what his return to the game means to all of us. I will only add that every time I saw him on the ball I had one certainty: we can win football games and we can lose football games…

But Eric’s recovery is our true victory.

First ball contact
First ball contact
After the game with de Dos Santos brothers
After the game with de Dos Santos brothers
abidal and alexis
He might have sold his cars, but he does love him some Lexus

“I said to Alexis before the game: ‘You’ll score today, don’t forget me! I knew it was his day”

Eric Sylvain Abidal

 

*as tweeted by Kxevin @kevvwill

**He lost the ball a lot, but I didn’t mind that much. I was happy to see him being an active part of the attack and try to make things happen. Sometimes he will try the wrong thing, but he is talented enough to do just that: make things happen

***winner of the Khedira look-alike contest

 

 

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selfie barça Written by:

Culé since way before football boots were of the neon yellow and lizard green variety, Levon is a deep thinker with increasingly shallow thoughts. He lives in Barcelona with his gorgeous wife and daughter. The lucky bastard...

156 Comments

  1. selfie barça
    April 7, 2013

    Continuing from the last thread I just want to again welcome 0sh0, rg23, SumayaFiqy and elacule to BfB. Very cool to see you all commenting!

    • barca96
      April 7, 2013

      So many people decided to make that jump from a lurker to a member. I wonder what kept them out for so long… Do we look too intimidating?

      In my case, during the Offside days, I was too scared to comment due to my poor English. Had a tough time understanding some of the posts back in the day.

      I can’t remember if it was Kxevin, Isaiah or another guy with a really short name like Adu, Edu or something, but that one person’s post was usually really hard to understand. It’s not as hard as Soccermom’s though.

      Anyways, welcome on board fellas.

      • rg23
        April 7, 2013

        Thanks guys. I am embarrassed to admit that for me it was the pure laziness of not creating an account to comment that kept me out of the discussions.

        However, after seeing Abidal battle through for such a wonderful return, I felt the least I could do is spend is a few minutes creating a WordPress account!

        I have been reading this blog for so long now that I feel like I know many of you already!

  2. elacule
    April 7, 2013

    thanks, Levon,

    lovely review ~ captures the flow of the match and the emotional content very well, with your choice of photos and captions adding even more delight. loved the homecoming/party metaphor – there were some great dance moves on display last night!

    i wonder whether if JDS gets more playing time toward the end of the season he might get either an appealing loan prospect or even improve enough to come into rotation more regularly.

    • selfie barça
      April 7, 2013

      Thank you! I don’t think JDS will ever be part of the rotation. Competition is a killer – our midfielders are simply too good.

  3. barca96
    April 7, 2013

    Perhaps as a result of not having Messi on the pitch, our play became a lot more vertical during this period the game, as we repeatedly tried to open up on the flanks with long balls to Tello or Dani Alves

    I haven’t watched the match yet as I was on a holiday so I have no idea but isn’t what you mentioned above usually happens when Cesc is playing and Xavi is out?

  4. barca96
    April 7, 2013

    Rodwell has started four league games and had nine different hamstring injuries over the past two seasons. Sinclair has managed two league starts and, since the turn of the year, four substitute appearances. In total, that is 25 minutes of league football in 2013. Or, to put it another way, not even the duration of the first song on Neil Young’s latest album.

    If I was a young player, I would never join Man City. It’s like Inter a decade ago, where they buy any new young talents only for them not to be given any chances to shine.

    • barca96
      April 7, 2013

      On a side note, 25 mins for 1 song??!! Haha. I didn’t know anyone would sing for that long. Imagine singing it live.

      On a related note, I just found out that Seth McFarlane has an amazing voice and delivers it effortlessly, live. I’ve always thought that he had a thing for Sinatra like music and he himself sounds like the great man himself. McFarlane is one hell of a talented guy. I love him!!

      • barca96
        April 7, 2013

        Kxevin, have you heard Seth McFarlane’s album? What do you think of it? Why I ask you that is because you used to be the editor of the music section for your newspaper, right?

      • ooga aga
        April 7, 2013

        rodwell…neil young…mcfarlane…let me guess, they are all barca fans?

        i got teary-eyed at the match yesterday. i watched until king abi left the field. what an inspiration. if i knew where he lived i would wait outside his door and hug him, not only to congratulate him, but hopin some of what ever he has rubs off…

        • barca96
          April 7, 2013

          rodwell…neil young…mcfarlane…let me guess, they are all barca fans?

          Wut??

          There is one particular hilly place where a lot of the footballers live. You could try your luck there 🙂

  5. barca96
    April 7, 2013

    From the Guardian;

    There’s a predictable joke to be told about the fact Manchester United have employed acoustics engineers to try to find a way of cranking up the volume during matches.

    The atmosphere at Old Trafford has been struggling for some time but it is not the only place where the decibel levels have turned down. Anfield can be mesmeric on occasions but not, perhaps, what it was. Sunderland and Newcastle are both renowned for the noise their fans generate but it can be pretty hit and miss at the Stadium of Light and St James’ Park.

    Stamford Bridge last Monday for Chelsea versus United was flat in the extreme bearing in mind the size of the match and it’s often the same at White Hart Lane and the Emirates. It’s a common theme as the demographic of football fans has gradually changed and, ultimately, the clubs surely have nobody to blame but themselves.

    United, and all the others, really don’t need to call in the experts. Some free and simple advice: drop the prices, look after your loyal fans and the atmosphere will generally take care of itself.

  6. barca96
    April 7, 2013

    RabbilAzizSikdar
    07 April 2013 9:04am

    You have to hand it to Barcelona…manager had cancer, player had cancer, and yet they all fight it off together, they stand by each other and support each other and never forget each other…similar thing happened when Villa broke his leg, the support for him was tremendous.

    Abidal is more than a human. For someone to battle cancer for over two years now and not get beaten by it and still have the desire and ability to play for a world-class and high-pressure club like Barcelona is amazing, as for Vilanova we’ve already seen that he’s a master tactician simply by the fact that the team suffered when he was gone.

    It’s hard to hate this club, and I definitely don’t, they do things their way and yet they’ve even got that little British spirit of never giving up. People talk about courage in football and talk about Terry Butcher or others, fuck them, it’s Barcelona’s players for not letting their heads drop and it’s Abidal’s for still believing that he can do it.

    More than a club they say, and they are right.

  7. ooga aga
    April 7, 2013

    the dos santos brothers? the dos dos santos? dos dos? 22? the holy 22? whoa…

  8. BA
    April 7, 2013

    great interplay between Cesc and Sanchez, while Song looked better and more comfortable in this match than i’ve seen. how much of that can we chalk up to the fact that Mallorca were really unimpressive is open to interpretation. that said, though…

    our defense still looked like crap. 5-0 or 12-0, they looked nervous and uncomfortable until we got up by a big margin, and Mallorca (the bottom team in the league, will probably get relegated) should have scored more than once; a slightly better team would have. that doesn’t bode well for the game against PSG, and Tito would be well to seriously reshuffle our defense to compensate. Busquets dropping into a back 3 of Montoya-Pique-Alba, with Dani shuttling down the right, for example. Barta, despite a couple of decent tackles, looked positionally confused and will absolutely get battered by Ibrahimovic.

    so while it’s great to see Cesc and Sanchez linking up, and even better to see Abidal back, i for one have serious concerns about the next game and this one did nothing to alleviate them.

    • ooga aga
      April 7, 2013

      so you are suggesting that in this huge match we put/experiment montoya as a CB, where he hasnt played all season, or ever? i would rather have busquets there, since he has played there in fact, including in the CL final 2 years ago, with Song as DM. and have alba play more conservatively than norm, as he did milan 2nd leg. we need defense. assuming we score 1, PSG will need 2.

      • ooga aga
        April 7, 2013

        maybe you arent saying montoya as CB, but rather have dani as a winger, and montoya RB. i still dont like the idea of a 3 man defense, with busquets occasionally dropping back. we need more than that. im still saying we attack, dont get me wrong…

        • ooga aga
          April 7, 2013

          all that said, i wouldnt be surprised if bartra plays, and it wouldnt concern me too much either. im confident we win this match.

          • BA
            April 7, 2013

            really what i’m suggesting is a 5-man backline in the defensive phase, so in fact a great deal *more* defensive than your standard back 4. if anything it would place greater pressure on our midfield to drop back and cover the area where Busquets typically loiters in that phase, but as PSG don’t really have any central player who naturally moves into that space i think we’d be alright.

            needless to say this game, much like the return game against Milan, will require far more intense and concentrated pressing than we offered last week in Paris. we’ll also need to monopolize the ball, which makes me wary of putting Song in that position…

          • ooga aga
            April 7, 2013

            to be fair, song doesnt give the ball away a ton. he is less prone to giveaways than, say, thiago.

  9. KEVINO17
    April 7, 2013

    With Cesc in the messi role we seemed better balanced in attack. Messi is always moving away from the right wing (Pedro, Alexis) whereas Cesc likes to play a little left of centre and was moving more towards them.
    Cesc also has priceless composure in front of goal. Four shots, every one quality. Cant ask for much more than that.

  10. KEVINO17
    April 7, 2013

    Interesting that Roura specifically congratulated Song. sounds like they want to keep him for next season.

  11. selfie barça
    April 7, 2013

    @barca96
    vertical play was not just due to Cesc playing instead of Xavi imo, since Cesc did not really play as a midfielder. A lot of those long and direct balls forward were played by iniesta, btw.

    @BA
    mmm other than a give-away when Montoya screwed the pooch and a free header when Dani Alves got fouled to the ground I don’t believe we gave up that many chances…Did we?

    @Kevin17
    Song was excellent yesterday.

  12. Tebzat
    April 7, 2013

    I JUST WISH KING ERIC WAS MATCH FIT FOR THE PSG GAME,THE HEIGHT OF THAT ZLAT IS BAD FOR US

    • April 7, 2013

      I would love to see that too! Not going to happen, though.

      (Hey, Tebzat, do you think you could stop with the all-caps, though? It reads like you are shouting. 🙂 )

  13. Tebzat
    April 7, 2013

    MAYBE FOR PLAN B FAB COULD TAKE MESSIS ROLE AS A FALSE NINE N MESSI WOULD CAN GO TO HIS ORIGINAL POSITION

    • ooga aga
      April 7, 2013

      im thinking that if messi plays, it will be as a sub, in a “break glass in case of emergency” type situation.

  14. rg23
    April 7, 2013

    Nice review Levon.
    Good point about Deulofeu. As much as I want Deulofeu to succeed in the first team, a part of me (the pessimistic cule side) feels like he won’t cut it.
    Clearly he has a lot to grow, as did Messi when Rijkaard first brought him on. But with Messi you just knew he had the mentality to learn and grow and stay grounded.
    Not sure if Deulofeu has that same mentality or if he is more on the arrogant/impatient side.
    Granted I have nothing to substantiate my intuition, but it’s just a hunch I have about Deulofeu.
    I so badly hope that I am wrong, but only time will tell.
    What does everyone else think?

    • selfie barça
      April 7, 2013

      Both Cuenca and Tello had better debut seasons but I think they were older, right?

      • Jim
        April 7, 2013

        I wouldn’t reallocate call this a debut season for him. He hasn’t played. What I would saris that I liked the fact his first thoughts are offensive ones to beat his man but he will have to learn to keep moving with the ball and not let everything go dead as he did yesterday. Once you stop yourself and the ball it is pretty hard to beat your man.

        • selfie barça
          April 7, 2013

          Yeah I guess you are right. Last season was kinda weird with Cuenca and Tello being called upon more than planned, what with the injuries and all…

      • April 7, 2013

        They were both 20, I believe. Deulofeu is 19.

        The thing about Deulofeu is, he clearly has exceptional talent BUT he also has people behind him pushing for him to be promoted, and being Catalan he is a media darling. The press constantly praises him as the next big thing. If he is not managed carefully he could be the next Bojan: pushed forward, promoted too soon, huge expectations, and ultimately unable to make the big step up.

        He can be a bit arrogant and selfish on the field, but he can also be very generous. And he hasn’t been arrogant when called up to the first team that I know of. I think he has been managed well so far. A year out on loan would be the best thing for him, but who knows what will happen?

        • Jim
          April 7, 2013

          There may be similarities as you suggest, Blitz, but for me not in the talent stakes. This kid is the real deal. You can see the skills he will bring to the team whereas I never really got it with Bojan. I remember ( just for a change 🙂 ) arguing the lone case in the days of the old offside that neither he nor GDS had what it took to play for Barca yet in the haste to get rid of R10 both were given the tail end of a season I still think we could have won. Anyway, no going back !

          Not a fan of being pushed into promoting youngsters just to keep them but its hard o see what else we can do with him.

    • G6O
      April 7, 2013

      I want Deulofeu to succeed too, but I am also skeptical. The thing is that wingers the players who can shine at an earliest age, as what makes a good winger (dribbling and speed) is already there earlier than what, for example, a midfielder needs (vision, patience). And most great wingers historically have made serious impact at this age. They like to compare him to Cristiano but Cristiano in 2004 was regularly beating defenders (and with great confidence and ease too) in the Premier League, while we have to see yet Deulofeu get past his man even once in his appearances for the first team. He still has time to mature and develop, and hopefully he will, but again, for a winger, he is not on the “legend of the game” developmental trajectory as of now.

      We will see who stays and who goes in the summer, but if the Neymar purchase is not coupled with Alexis being sold, then it would seem to me the club is also skeptical about Deulofeu – the both Neymar and Alexis are very young, and I don’t see where there will be room for him, unless Tello and Cuenca go too.

  15. mom4
    April 7, 2013

    Loved our game yesterday (once I finally got home and hit the DVR). The only complaint I have was that Ini should never have started the second half. The game was already won. I also cringed every time Dani threw himself into a challenge. Yes, I know he’s competitive but we needed him in one piece for Wednesday.

    And then there was Abi. Wow! And his first touch on the ball. Wow!

    Found out loveblobs fry my little old droid’s brain though. Had to take out the battery after it totally froze on me. It is very old. So no LBs for me unless I’m home on the laptop.

    Thanks, Levon, for the review and Blitzen for the LB.

  16. TITO
    April 7, 2013

    My only complain is Thiago. He definitely is not going anywhere with the way he’s playing.

    • April 7, 2013

      I just rewatched the game, and Thiago played very well. What, specifically, do you think he did wrong?

      • TITO
        April 7, 2013

        His giveaways are directly resulting with the opponents dangerous attacks. In every single game that he played.
        His problem is that he still hasn’t figure it out where he can dribble and where not. When to pass safely and when to try something fancy. He had the whole season to learn this. I’m curios just why he continues with the same mistakes over and over again.

        • April 7, 2013

          Like I said, I just rewatched the game. I only saw Thiago trying something “fancy” once, when we were already 5 goals up. I watched him especially closely just so I could address this ongoing complaint about his game. He played very well. He gave away fewer balls than Iniesta did.

          People have a preconceived notion as to how Thiago plays that does not correspond to what he actually does on the pitch. Watch the game again.

          • ooga aga
            April 7, 2013

            where there’s smoke, there’s fire.
            when the river makes noise, it carries rocks.

            people didnt invent this “thiago gives the ball away too much” notion out of nothing. the perception exists for a reason. he needs to consistently not give the ball away, esp in dangerous situations, for him to overcome the perception.

          • TITO
            April 7, 2013

            I’ll probably wont, but it has nothing to do with a preconceived notion on him. He has the material, it’s just a raw one. As i said, i wonder why he isn’t learning when he has teachers of a world quality within the club.
            Maybe he also need to be seated in the stands so he can watch games and become more aware of his role.
            He has a future in our club, let’s see how he develops. The bitching from his dad don’t help though.

          • April 7, 2013

            Sorry, but the “where there’s smoke” argument holds no water with me. People still accuse Busquets of being a diver, but it has been at least two season since I have seen him take a deliberate dive.

            Neither of you have been able to point out a specific instance in Saturday’s game where Thiago gave away the ball in a dangerous situation. Give me an example so I can go and watch it.

          • nzm
            April 7, 2013

            Late in the second half, (can’t tell you what minute), Thiago gave the ball away with a careless pass in the Barca half of the pitch which could have been a scoring op for a better team.

            Luckily our defence shut it down.

            We were watching on a stream, so if it wasn’t Thiago I’ll apologise in advance, but pretty sure that it was him.

          • nzm
            April 8, 2013

            Saw it – 82nd minute.

            Just so silly – he wasn’t under pressure and gave the ball away. If the Mallorca pass hadn’t gone behind Alfaro for Alves to get to it, it could have been a goal for Mallorca.

            Not disastrous as a sum of all things, but completely needless and careless. Thiago should be taking every available second to improve and perfect his game.

            He also placed some of his team-mates in precarious situations when he passed the ball to them when they were being pressured by Mallorca players.

            He sometimes doesn’t seem to think about the consequences of his passing. He can do the attacking stuff all right, but his possession passing seems to be all about off-loading the ball as quickly as he can, so that he doesn’t get stuck with it. However, he just passes the problem onto others. That part of his play irks me as it’s just not necessary.

          • April 8, 2013

            ONE misplaced pass. In the 82nd minute. When we were 5 goals up. Seriously?

            Iniesta passed the ball straight to an opponent at least twice in that game, but no calls him “loose with the ball” or “reckless”.

            You have your narrative and look for things to fit it. I’m just going to leave this here:

            Best passing % in top 5 leagues (20+ games): Xavi 95.1 – Thiago 92.6 – Ki Sung Yueng 92.5 – Arteta 92.3 – Busquets 92.1 [via @barcastat]

          • nzm
            April 8, 2013

            No blitzen, it wasn’t just one misplaced pass.

            As you know, statistics can be skewed. Take a look at the game again and just watch Thiago and his passing. Sure he completes the passes, but look at the awkward situations that he sometimes places his team-mates into when he passes to them.

            What’s the point in passing to a team-mate, surrounded by 3 opposition players, who then has to scramble to get a pass away to get himself out of danger and not lose possession?

            That instance where Thiago lost that ball in the 82nd minute was a result of carelessness. He was not under pressure at all to release that ball and he failed to complete the pass.

            You asked for an example – I gave it. You even mentioned it on Twitter.

            And – as I stated in my above comment – it wasn’t disastrous in the sum of it all, but then Thiago should be looking to eliminate these types of things from his play.

            If you want to talk about Iniesta, then yes, I’ll mention those giveaways too – and Messi’s when he makes them – and anyone else who stuffs up. But in this instance, we were talking about Thiago.

          • bhed
            April 9, 2013

            I’m with NZM on this one. Was at the game and the Socis around us were definitely frustrated with his play. I unfortunately think he’s regressed a bit this season.

  17. April 7, 2013

    I am one of the ones who has been giving Jonathan Dos Santos a lot of flack–not because I dislike him (I don’t), but because there is no room for him in the team and he would have done much better to go out on loan where he could get some real playing time.

    BUT. I will be the first one to admit that he played very well yesterday. He was smooth, skillful, graceful. I only saw one really bad giveaway, and he controlled the midfield very well. He has a particularly nice connection with Thiago and Dani Alves. I was impressed, and as I always say, I cannot fault his work ethic or his positive attitude. I hope he gets a good offer from a decent team and has the smarts to take it this summer.

    • nzm
      April 7, 2013

      Yes – I thought that in his minutes on the pitch, JDS showed more positional intelligence and was more thoughtful with his passes than Thiago had been for the entire match. He was certainly more attacking and direct. It was good to see from a player who has had bugger-all playing time.

      It’s as if all this time in the stands has allowed him to really watch and learn, and then have the nous to translate it into his playing time when it came. Shows that he has a sensible head and an analytical mind.

        • nzm
          April 7, 2013

          Going well! Dubai was awesome catching up with friends and New Zealand is wonderful to be home with the folks.

          • K_legit in Oz
            April 8, 2013

            Dubai’s so much fun! I would have had more if only I didn’t get lost in that huge-ass mall they have got!

  18. selfie barça
    April 7, 2013

    Yes, he did have a nice match. And I completely understand the criticism he has received for not wanting to move. And yes, hopefully he accepts an offer. But as long as his dream is to represent Barcelona I can’t really fault him. When does his contract expire? And to think he made his debut before Thiago…

  19. nia
    April 7, 2013

    Messi on 60 mins sports tonight on. Nice surprise that was.

  20. April 7, 2013

    Messi isn’t recovering very well, so my guess, he be playing if we’re soo trapped & can’t get pass over psg

    • April 7, 2013

      Actually, Messi is recovering very well from his thigh injury. The rest period has been reduced from 3 to 2 weeks, and though he will not be starting against PSG, he will be available to play if needed.

      Further, the club has a higher winning percentage withOUT Messi in the lineup. People will say that statistically, the numbers are flawed because of the sample size difference, but we need to get over the notion that we need Messi to win matches. He is one player. Without him, here is the starting XI:

      Valdes, Alves, Pique, Adriano, Alba, Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta, Villa, Pedro, Fabregas

      Does anyone suggest that there isn’t enough quality in that side to beat any team in the world? That is if the Barça system is played as it should be played, irrespective of opponent quality, that team wouldn’t win matches? Remember when the Babies obliterated BATE Borisov in the Champions League group stage? They played the system to its ultimate, selfless effect, and beat a European side. And it was a core of B teamers.

      And no, I don’t hate or disrespect Messi. Let’s nip that nonsense in the bud right now. But I DO have confidence in our team. It isn’t as though they suck without Messi. Yes, he’s the best player in the world. But watch the second half of the PSG match again. With better finishing, there were more goals for us in that match. PSG were more scattered, and we were more difficult to defend because there was no focus. Everyone was a danger.

      Look at the goals from yesterday, and imagine Messi on the pitch. He would have been where Fabregas and Sanchez were, along with 3 or 4 defenders. Yes, he has the quality to make a shot even in that maelstrom. But the play moved differently (Mallorca notwithstanding), and because of the danger all over the pitch, Sanchez and Fabregas had more space with which to work, and score goals.

      So we are not “soo trapped.” Far from it. Even without Messi we have the best team in the world, one that we should be confident in.

      • KEVINO17
        April 7, 2013

        If Pedro plays, who is going to slide across into the CF position when Cesc goes roaming? It certainly won’t be Pedro. Alexis has to play because he can slide across to be CF, leaving Dani to bomb forward to provide width.
        Agree with you about Messi attracting defenders. They all know he’s going to dribble left and pass/shoot with his left foot. Cesc, on the other hand, played back against the grain.

      • ooga aga
        April 8, 2013

        ummm, no, the problem is not the sample size (14 games), but that the sample sized is biased towards smaller teams. there are a disproportionate number of games in there vs 2nd div teams (copa del rey), and teams in the lower part of the table. throw in BATE Borisov.

        the list of teams we have played vs messi in last 3 years is found in following article (link below). by far the most impressive is a win at san mames 3 years ago. after that, hard to find a difficult task for our boys. the article cites malaga, but it is malaga of 3 years ago. (i dont think BATE was all that either).

        **http://www.fcbarcelona.es/futbol/primer-equipo/detalle/noticia/maxima-fiabilidad-sin-messi

        i agree though, we dont suck without messi. just as the spanish national team doesnt suck. i think we will do OK without him.

        if messi is still half crocked, start without him, see how we do, then bring him on near the end, when, vs a tired defence, he is usually good for at least a goal.

        • April 8, 2013

          Most teams that Barça play are “smaller” teams, though, or lower teams in the table. It speaks to my point about resting him more. I wouldn’t even think about playing him until Athletic, in three weeks’ time. Shouldn’t need him for PSG, Zaragoza or Levante.

          If he winds up having to play against PSG for some crazy reason, I would extend that rest period through Athletic.

      • dl
        April 8, 2013

        I completely agree that a messi-less barca is a match for any team in the world. In fact I look forward to such games because without him on the field people really have an opportunity to step up and shine. Many of the players that come in for a lot of flak here (Thiago, Sanchez, Cesc) for either being slow or sloppy or whatever I think are magnificent players. They may or may not ultimately fit in barca, but hey, who cares? I certainly hope they do, but in the meantime I enjoy their playing (when they actually get it all together), and Ilook forward to Tuesday’s 11 really whomping some butt tomorrow. And if messi is sitting on the bench with his stomach in knots because he can’t play, all the better! It just means he’ll come out storming in the next game and show everyone just what it means to play barca’s ‘real’ first team.

    • mom4
      April 8, 2013

      I can’t for the life of me find any mention of Messi’s recovery not going well. Last I heard he was expected to be available on Wednesday.

  21. April 7, 2013

    Thanks for the reply 🙂

    I wouldn’t be so confident about it, although i agree on what you’ve said on Bate.

    But Mallorca’s game can be bit deceiving regarding the space Fabri & Sanchez be creating. Mallorca put no effort ,whatsoever, in defending their net. Replay Fabri’s 1st goal! He was ahead of the defenders by at least one foot, & yet nobody even “tried” to make a run for it & pretend to stop him, assuming he be scoring for sure. His goal was so effortless ,not discredit Fabri’s contribution, but to point out how lousy was there defense.

    It’s not that I’m confident with my team, I’ve been Cule since 2004, & i know better than That. My point is , we have so much deficit in our defense that our attack withOUT Messi isn’t good enough to make up for it.I kid you not!

    We do need him, at least to my view…

    • This^.

      I would have been double confident, if this match was against a different team who showed more heart in their defending.
      All the five goals were basically our system generated goals – like Kxevin always says. But all the Messi goals arent system goals either.

      PSG players have already commented that they felt much relieved that Messi wasnt there in the second half. This definitely made them a bit more forward looking and gave us spaces at the back, making them look scattered.

      If our defence were in a good state, I would also shout to keep Messi out of the wed match squad. But in the present state, any ball entering our half can end up in the net, it is better to have a danger man, at least in the bench to use if required. I hope we win it without him.

      • barca96
        April 8, 2013

        Messi gives us that extra 30-40% winning chance.

      • April 8, 2013

        (any ball entering our half can end up in the net, it is better to have a danger man, at least in the bench to use if required. I hope we win it without him.)

        I do hope so, the burden is with any goal conceded we have to put 3 times the effort score, whereas double with Messi. In both cases our back line can sabotages everything we put in to score!

  22. Great review Levon.

    This match right here is where I stop thinking about the next game and simply enjoy the return of the King. Absolutely mind blowing what that man has achieved, and there is nothing else that needs to happen now. Just revel in his courage, his determination and ultimately, his victory.

    P.S. – Khedira himself is the undisputed champion of the Milan Baros lookalike contest.

  23. ooga aga
    April 8, 2013

    in another great piece from phil ball, he tips a youngster from La Real to be the next Xabi…or Xavi. and he states that we have been sniffing around, because this youngin looks more Xavi than does Thiago…

    **http://espnfc.com/columns/story/_/id/1404174/ball:-clones-from-pea-mountain?cc=5739

    • nzm
      April 8, 2013

      Yay – another midfielder. To which position shall he be converted? 🙂

    • Nik
      April 8, 2013

      My favorite part of the article:

      He also lacks the defensive qualities that Alonso has learned over the years.

      “Defensive qualities” = hacking away like Paul Scholes but miraculously getting away without being carded, yes?

      • barca96
        April 8, 2013

        @Nik

        Hahahaha so true. Someone here said it’s because of his gentleman look that he gets away with them.

  24. selfie barça
    April 8, 2013

    @thiago
    he also lost the ball about 30 yards from our own goal in the first half by trying to dribble past an opponent. There is a certain carelessness to his game which is definitely not imagined. Let’s hope and trust it is part of the learning curve.

    @messi-less
    Like ooga aga noted, the 14 games were against inferior opposition. The last two years those teams were l’Hospitalet, BATE, Sporting Gijón, Getafe, Alaves and Cordoba.

    The idea that the system works better without Messi is impossible to prove right now. We would need maybe three months without our pulga to really have an idea how we would do, and how other teams would adapt. I prefer not to find out.

    M*drid just won 5-1 without Cristiano Ronaldo and I certainly don’t think they are a better team without the depilated one, and he less than a team player than Leo.

    Having said that, we should certainly start without Messi. We are still an equipazo. If you want to worry about something, worry about our defense!

    @khedira look-allike contest vs Milan Baros
    LOL!

    @phill ball
    my favorite football writer, together with Tim Stannard

  25. Archie
    April 8, 2013

    PSG game is opportunity for Barca to Rotate because Messi is not (should not be) available. Cesc was very difficult for PSG to defend in a dynamic goal threat and assist threat way usually associated with Messi. This Cesc v2 is the culmination of the sacrifice he made by returning to Barcelona. The use of the speed of Tello and Sanchez in Mallorca game for es the defense to drop off and allows more time for the unique feature of Barca’s attack: multiple players in attacking midfield positions who can routinely execute high quality final passes; Xavi, Iniesta, Messi, Cesc, Alves, etc. A really ridiculous number of potentially goal making passes. Whenever a packed defense deforms or becomes stretched Barca create high probability scoring chances. Tactics should result in PSG defense loosing shape. The assists will come. I think this is why my skin crawls when a game goes for 15-20 mins without a breakdown in the defensive shape of an opponent. Barca hasn’t made a change that will cause that deformation. Villa is very effective as target/finisher when space opens up for all those passers.

  26. Archie
    April 8, 2013

    For example, Barca could start Tello and tell him to force the defenders to chase him by making runs after medium distance passes. Take the first 5 minutes and chip the ball somewhere in front of Tello. No pressure, this tactic probably won’t result in a goal. Just put the bug in their ears that they can’t stay tight and they have to watch behind and then find the space that results. Lately, defensive backs have been beating Barca strikers to through balls. The opponent has to be scared of being beaten to those passes for Barca’s true attacking danger to flourish.

  27. ooga aga
    April 8, 2013

    trivia! to commemorate cesc’s recent hattrick.

    last barcelona player to score hattrick? besides messi.

    no research allowed!

        • mom4
          April 8, 2013

          Nah, not too impressive. That game in the fall of 2009 was one of the first Barca games I had ever watched. No wonder it left an impression on me. And Keita was after that one of my favorite players (although further into my cule-ness, the reasons for that went beyond being impressed by a hat trick and revolved more around him being such an unselfish and underrated servant of the club.)

  28. April 8, 2013

    The match review I wish I had written:

    http://www.fcbarcelona-tickets.co.uk/news/40

    — At some point, it has to be said that our defense isn’t “bad,” or “shaky.” Our defense is a victim of the way the club plays right now, which is very high risk. The reason that our defense was so strong in the past was that it had Abidal, and relative health. Last season began the “decline,” because defenders started breaking.

    If you look at the way Abidal defends versus the way that Alba defends, it’s clear why the defense is “struggling”: It is placing emphasis on attack, using the FBs to provide width, figuring that if goals are leaked, the team can just score more. This is different from in the past, when Abidal was part of a three-man back line but with sideline-to-sideline range, he fixed a lot of errors from Pique, Puyol, etc.

    In the here and now, we often get caught with Alba and Alves up. This means two CBs at the back, with everybody else chasing, and no press, another difference in this season’s defense. If the break is fast enough the chasers never catch up, and we have to rely on luck (Niang’s post) or Valdes (1-v-1) save.

    But in the context of how the defense plays, frankly it’s a wonder it hasn’t conceded more goals. Our defense isn’t bad or shaky. It’s risk-heavy, and sometimes gets caught out. And if the midfield isn’t doing its part, the risk is even higher. Look the pressure applied during the Milan match. Aside from Niang’s break, the problems didn’t start until the team decided to start absorbing pressure, rather than pressing. At that point, our defenders have to become something they are not: defenders.

    In all competitions, the team has held its opponents to a single goal in 22 of them. For a defense that plays with the risk and lack of discipline (“Everyone to the ball!”) that ours does, that stat verges on mind-boggling. That same defense has also had 14 clean sheets. Again, astounding when you look up and see Alba and Alves in or near the opponents box, and the CBs up by the halfway line.

    Would anyone say that United doesn’t have a good defense? They have only three more clean sheets in all competitions, playing a significantly more conservative defensive approach. A bad defense wouldn’t have its team in position to win the Liga, and still in the hunt for Champions League. You don’t have to be a bad defense to concede. You do have to be a risky one.

    Next season, assuming the Neymar presence, the defense improves even more, because Alba becomes lateral instead of vertical, echoing the Abidal days. None of this is a bad thing.

    • selfie barça
      April 8, 2013

      I agree with almost everything here. You are making some very good points.

      You are right that Abidal made a huge difference as his speed and positioning mitigated the risk significantly. I also think that from 2009 to maybe 2011 Valdes was (one of) the best keepers in the world.

      Missing Abidal and (a healthy) Puyol also means we are more vulnerable in the air. Masche and Alba simply lack height (and Alba physicality). I know not one culé who does not get nervous when we concede corners or free-kicks. I know we have not conceded from many throughout the season, but Celtic, PSG and M*drid have definitely shown us it is a weakness.

      It is in many ways astounding we haven’t conceded more and this speaks volumes to the quality of our team. But there is a very fine line between a risk-heavy defense and a shaky one – when the risk does not pay off, the defense is made to look very shaky indeed!

      On a sidenote the amount of complaints I have heard about United’s defense this season is staggering!

      • April 8, 2013

        I know not one culé who does not get nervous when we concede corners or free-kicks. I know we have not conceded from many throughout the season ….

        You know me, sort of, and I don’t get nervous on set pieces. But what makes cules nervous, since as you say we haven’t conceded many set piece goals this season? It’s like crossing the street 100 times, stubbing your toe the 101st time then being nervous about crossing the street forever.

        Set piece vulnerability, like the idea of that our defense is bad, is to my view, a narrative.

        We concede set piece goals for two reasons: poor marking (all teams do that …. look at RM, who had Ramos, Varane, Casillas, etc, and still gave up set pieces) or physicality (can’t do anything about that) such as when Varane treated our markers like they didn’t exist, or when Wrongaldo skied for that header of his. Great plays happen. It explains Messi and his excellence.

        Set piece defending isn’t about height. It’s about making sure that your marker isn’t in a position to hurt your club. Our defense does this often enough where I don’t worry at all about set pieces. I worry more about turned possession in midfield leading to jailbreak counters.

        Marking on set pieces is no different (pardon the bouncieball analogy, blitzen) to boxing out for rebounds. Dennis Rodman wasn’t the tallest player, and didn’t have the biggest jump, but he knew exactly how to position his body to mark out his man. Jordi Alba can defend set pieces if he gets his little butt on a man far enough outside the danger area where his header won’t have the necessary force. But he is too often a punk about marking, sometimes choosing to cover his head and fall down. That ain’t defending.

        It isn’t the defense that is risk-heavy. It’s the entire team and the way it plays. It’s a tradeoff that Vilanova has chosen to make for this season. Our defense will almost certainly concede more goals this season than it did last season. And I’m sure someone will think of that while riding the bus in the Liga championship celebrations.

        The people are complaining about United’s defense need stuff to fret about, like cules. They are what, 13, 15 points to the good over second place in the Premiership, the “best league in the world?”

        My point is that people see fear where they want to see fear. It isn’t our defense that worries me against PSG. It’s our pressing and midfield. If those two are up to par, our defense won’t have very much to worry about.

        • selfie barça
          April 8, 2013

          Well maybe it’s a narrative. Come to think of it, I don’t get that nervous either in most games, but when we play M*drid or PSG I do – the former because we conceded from like four set-pieces this season (and one last season) and PSG cause we gave up three set-pieces in a minute or something.

          I don’t like bouncie-ball comparisons either, lol, but this is an interesting one. I played both sports and I was a better rebounder than defensive header of the ball – the trajectory of a rebound makes boxing out a lot easier than the trajectory of a cross.

          You can’t really box out in football anyway, but I agree that you can use your body to mark your man. You need a body though, which is why Jordi Alba marks like a punk and also why Busquets is relatively poor in the air. Heck, Peter Crouch is 6 foot 7 and he is terrible in the air because he’s so skinny.

          Alexis Sanchez uses his body really well which is why even though he is short he can receive long balls with his back to the goal. I don’t know how effective he is / would be at defending corners though.

          I would say that it is not all about height, but height coupled with physicality definitely helps a lot.

          “It isn’t the defense that is risk-heavy. It’s the entire team and the way it plays”
          Agree 1000%. I was thinking about our team defense when writing.

    • barca96
      April 8, 2013

      What an odd place for Graham Hunter to publish his article.

      • April 8, 2013

        Just one of his many freelance employers. He’s been doing pieces for them for some time now.

    • Blau-Grenade
      April 8, 2013

      Quote from the article you poined out Kxevin:

      Fabregas, I’m pleased to say, stuck it to those who don’t see how he has a place in this team. How it can be that a 25 year old who has achieved all he has at Arsenal, with Spain and since returning to the Camp Nou consistently have to live with such doubts about his efficacy or his level is baffling to me.

      True, his work as a striker is auxilliary work – it’s a relatively new phase of his career and if he’s deputising for either David Villa or Leo Messi then he’s being asked to take the burden of two modern greats. That’s a big ask. But Fabregas continually produces work of high quality. Goals, assists, and even when his form is low (as perhaps it has been the last handful of weeks) his managers always get full effort, total involvement. This, to me, is a brave footballer who has still to be asked to play his best position.

      In due course Xavi will hand over the reins to Fabregas in midfield and the player will, I believe, become a commanding, leading and winning part of the club’s history.

      • barca96
        April 8, 2013

        become a commanding

        He has yet to show that here. I still haven’t seen any of that, like what he did at Arsenal. It’s like he became a different player here.

        • ooga aga
          April 8, 2013

          different places, different faces.

        • selfie barça
          April 8, 2013

          That’s okay, though. Perhaps your expectations are too high. At Arsenal he was the most talented player on that team. Heck, the only other player who came close was RvP. Big difference.

          I have always thought that his was a purchase for the future. Xavi was not Xavi either when he was 25 (2004-2005 season!!!)

    • April 8, 2013

      When Toure was there, He be more likely to go back & be the 3rd man on defense, so as Busqi in so many occasions. Abidal became more attacking minded lately. he’d have Pedro cover for him to make his runs forward, or Busqi shifting more to the left.

      I think there isn’t much difference with Alba except the quality of his defending compare to Abidal, rather than the approach. Because we rarely go defensive with our full backs if not all. Abidal was, originally, very poor in both aspects until his great transformation, which was more defensive than other. Had he been good on the attack, we would gone for it ( just like Alves or Silvinho or Alba now), but he wasn’t until late in his career. Yet, that doesn’t mean we gone defensive, it’s just that we’re adapting to his ability ( & that’s what we’re missing with Alba) ..

  29. Tebzat
    April 8, 2013

    Everytime a team wants to play a star player recovering from an injury or a negative incident i start to think of ronaldo at final of the 98 world cup.It rarely goes well.In our case its messi. I think Tito has to think of other ways to play without depending too much on messi

    • barca96
      April 8, 2013

      Good point. Damn. WC 98. So long ago. Those ugly yellow and silver shoes that Ronaldo was wearing.

  30. April 8, 2013

    Great game and an inspired performance by Tito and the players.
    Agree largely with most points. Without Messi, Barca play the system and reap the rewards. I always remember and mention the Bate 4-0 win as a sort of guideline, benchmark for the way the system needs to be played. Yes it was Bate, but if the system and its principles are executed, the personnel or even the opponent, hardly matters.

    Having been an ardent supporter of Lexus and Song and their value to the team in these parts, it was reassuring and great to see them shine, though it was never in doubt, atleast for me. Whatever happens, we must try to hold on to these two in the summer. They WILL come good.

    And Finally.. for PSG, hopefully Tito will continue to show guts and ask Messi to stand down. His inclusion is unnecessary and the Mallorca performance should have erased any doubts of the team’s efficacy without the Flea. Winning against a top quality PSG in the CL QFs sans Leo will also go a long way towards boosting the confidence of the team. If I were Tito, I’d play

    Valdes
    Alves Pique Bartra Alba
    Xavi Busquets Iniesta
    Alexis Cesc Villa
    pedro for Villa, Song for Cesc after the tie is sealed.

    • selfie barça
      April 8, 2013

      If he is fully fit, I wouldn’t mind if Pedro starts instead of Villa in order to strenghten us defensively.

    • mom4
      April 8, 2013

      I’m betting:
      VV
      Alves, Pique, Busi (not that I agree with it), Alba
      Song, Xaviniesta
      Sanchez, Villa, Pedro (if fit)

      And because it’s such an important game, and because our club does what it does, and because Messi does what he does it would not shock me in the slightest as in I wouldn’t even bat an eye if Messi starts. It may not be right, but it is what it is.

      • selfie barça
        April 8, 2013

        I would hate to see Busi in the central defense for this game. I never liked when he played there, unless it was against a low to mid-table league opponent. .

        • mom4
          April 9, 2013

          Guess I should have been clearer. This is not what I want to see, but what I’m betting we’ll see. 🙂

  31. kosby
    April 8, 2013

    First time post here. Been a real fan of this website (for reviews) and allasfcb (for tactics). Was watching the match once again – noticed the pass from Fabregas to Alexis. THIS is what he is capable of doing..can believe people doubted his quality. He (like everybody else) should play in his right position to be most effective ! Anyways, I thank the admins of this website for all the reviews and psasion ! visa barca !

  32. mom4
    April 8, 2013

    Not saying Messi should start because I don’t think he should; however, assuming we have it all under control for Wednesday because our relatively weak lineup on Saturday shone like crazy against Mallorca seems a little premature. Mallorca v PSG? You’d be comparing apples and oranges quality wise.

    I like Fabregas. I really do. He has a lot of quality. But, this was not the game to judge that quality. The opposition was just too poor.

    Just sayin’.

    *runs away and hides* 🙂

    • Jim
      April 8, 2013

      Youre not alone in that, Mom4. Mallorca were possibly the worst side defensively I can remember seeing at the Camp Nou in the last two or three years so I’m not basing much on that result.

      • ooga aga
        April 8, 2013

        thirding this sentiment. no conclusions can be drawn, other than that our boys can get it done without messi against a bottom-of-the-table team. PSG a completely different proposition.

    • nzm
      April 8, 2013

      What I liked was that Cesc took the role of the play-maker in this game. Against Celta that was left to Thiago. This time, Cesc grabbed the reins.

      Once there was someone on the pitch to lead the way, Iniesta, Alexis, Thiago and Alves became the guys to give him the attacking support, while Song mopped up in midfield and Tello was Tello.

      Regardless of the calibre of the opposition, I liked the interaction between the players.

      And I loved that Alexis was finally able to play in his rightful field position and show that he has the quality.

  33. Dani_el
    April 8, 2013

    I was wondering. I think this Cesc’s Hat Trick is the first in Liga for someone that is not Messi since 2009 at the least?

    • ooga aga
      April 8, 2013

      see above, this thread. keita in 2009

  34. Jason
    April 8, 2013

    Hey all,

    Great game this past weekend. I loved Song’s play, his adaptation to the style seems near complete. Passing was sharp and moved forward into space extremely well. The quality of our opposition may have been less than what we expect to face in PSG but they are battling relegation and every game acts as a final.

    What struck me as interesting is that perhaps Cesc and Alexis may have felt liberated without Leo on the field. His participation may hinder the play of others. Someone mentioned above how interesting it would be to see the team play without Leo for an extended period of time…my guess, extremely well.

    I hope to see a Messi-less starting XI this Wednesday. Fairly certain he will make the bench and hopefully the game plays out in a manner where he will not have to enter.

    I do have a request of you all. Besides reading BFB, I also visit Marca, TheGuardian, totalbarca and BarcaStuff; does anyone have any other recommendations for good reading regarding our team or world football in general? It would be appreciated…thx!

    • April 8, 2013

      I’m glad we made your top 5!

      Four Four Two is another excellent site with football news, interviews, and regular blog writers. And if you can afford it, I highly recommend subscribing to their paper magazine–it is jampacked with brilliant features, interviews & op-ed columns.

      • selfie barça
        April 8, 2013

        Tim Stannard’s columns on 365football and fourfourtwo are awesome. So is Phill Ball’s on soccernet.

        • barca96
          April 9, 2013

          Sid Lowe, every Monday on the Guardian. Or you can also look for Graham Hunter on espn.

          • ooga aga
            April 9, 2013

            check out zonalmarking.net for high quality tactical reviews (+previews, sometimes) of high-profile matches, and the comments are moderated and of high quality as well.

  35. April 8, 2013

    UEFA rejected our complaint because it was filled late! uefa regulation says complaints has to be filled within 24hr period after the game!

    This is so unprofessional, how could they not have someone on top of this already?!

    I hate Wolfgang Stark Basically with passion, he cost us( Borussia Dortmund )the title run ” it ended so early for us”. We lost 3 crucial points because of him. wrogful prenalty call for the wolfs & a red card against Schmelzer that was later revoked & we had him officially apologizing to us, plus he will never be refereeing in our games for the rest of the season.

    All of these results because we filled on time & we fought for it! it’s very upsetting to know that our club (Barca) officials aren’t simply doing their job right in protecting our player.

  36. barca96
    April 9, 2013

    Finally watched the match. Damn. Manly tears. I’m certain that it was Abidal’s absence that cause us to have a poor season (2011-12). He brings calmness at the back. I am sure the players like me, feel a lot safer with Abidal at the back.

    The way he controlled the ball, his first touch is what finally what brought the tears out. So beautiful, so soft, so elegant, so calm. I love you Abidal!!

    • barca96
      April 9, 2013

      How did you find that blog? His style could make readers mistake him for Michael Cox. Excellent!

          • April 9, 2013

            Oooh! That IS a lovely piece. This line in particular leaped out at me:

            it is hard to imagine Busquets prospering in the holding role in any context outside of Barça.

            It has been said before, and I believe it to be true. It definitely isn’t a negative observation on the part of the writer, though.

            And this will REALLY get people going. Look what he said in a comment below the article:

            In terms of Arsenal I don’t think the comparison with Song is relevant because even if Song were pushed higher between the lines, I think he’d be less used as a pivot and more of a conventional playmaker. Of course, it goes without saying that such a move would deprive Arsenal of this colossal holding midfielder. In fact, I would say Song is probably the archetype of the perfect holding midfielder; it’s hard to find a weakness in his game.

    • kosby
      April 9, 2013

      “It may be best to turn to La Masia. Whatever they do, one thing is certain: a ‘star player’ is the last thing they need.”

      – hinting at Neymar maybe ?

      • April 9, 2013

        But if you look at the attributes that he describes, that is Neymar exactly. He’s s star in Brazil, but is he really a global star yet?

        • selfie barça
          April 9, 2013

          I think he just did a million-dollar advertising campaign for a French perfume. That certainly spells global. He will have to prove it on the pitch, though.

  37. April 9, 2013

    Apparently Wolfgang Stark and his crew will work no more CL matches this season, according to reports. I doubt the action would have been taken had the club not filed its official whine.

    • mom4
      April 9, 2013

      It’s a day late and a dollar short, but it is something.

  38. selfie barça
    April 9, 2013

    Some quotes for y’all:

    Cruijff: “Barça is lucky to have a player of Sanchez’s quality.”

    Romario: “Pele es uno de los que mas mierda meten a nuestro futbol.”

    Joey Barton: “I’d say RIP Maggie (Margaret Thatcher) but that wouldn’t be true. If Heaven exists, that old witch won’t be there…”

    • barca96
      April 9, 2013

      I was over at the Guardian as well. I admit I do not know her history but I still don’t think a lot of readers there and Joey Barton should disrespect her like this. Somebody passed away and no matter how much we dislike the person, we shouldn’t say such things. It’s not like she killed people for a living or was a dictator.

    • Bill
      April 9, 2013

      Joey Barton…Lol. This guy is brave. He knows the backlash he might get, yet just goes ahead and says whatever he wants! I enjoy reading some of his quotes.

  39. ooga aga
    April 9, 2013

    word is that the latest tests (today?) show messi has a 50% chance of reinjury if he plays. he will begin the game on the bench.

    ref will be bjorn kuipers of holland

    • ooga aga
      April 9, 2013

      adriano and pedro could be available but it will be decided tomorrow.

    • ooga aga
      April 9, 2013

      well, now i am reading that pedro, messi and adriano all worked out today “con normalidad”

  40. psqd
    April 9, 2013

    Fun Read! & fantastical stuff the return of Abidal!

    RE Mallorca…personally this result has to be kept in context, ie a game at home vs the last placed team in la liga who didn’t look to have anything like a proper tactical plan.

    The space mallorca left at the back and defending in general flattered. It was good to see Sanchez take the two opportunities he did, but he also spoiled a couple. I like Sanchez, but just want to keep things realistic. Cesc was good, but he got maybe twice as much time and space as he would/did against psg or milan. Based on subs it looks like they were preparing to start villa and cesc against psg. Personally, i’d like to see pedro, villa, and sanchez start. It would make the side much less predictable in the sense that psg would almost certainly have prepared to face a “false 9” of some sort and the threat and ball flow, as pointed out in this review, is much lss predictable w/o messi.

    That said, messi will start. He’s in the team and trained normally, he’ll start. One thing i haven’t seen criticized enough, imo, is that messi was played at the weekend between internationals including one at altitude and the CL game vs psg. can’t think it helped him at all and they had been doing better resting messi after internationals.

    anyway, on other points about the game. RE thiago…he had 94% completion and 2 turnovers. watching certainly seemed like he would have had worse numbers, but likely because a few stuck out and he did put a few people under pressure. that said, let’s remember two things. the kid is just a kid, and xavi wasn’t being xavi at his age. and the kid isn’t predisposed to be xavi. to my view he’s more attacking than xavi and is being moved back kinda like xavi wasn’t guardiola but they tried to push him into a 4. think this is mostly about the trouble transitioning. post-xavi there won’t be someone as explicitly playing the xavi role, but this is still xavi’s team and in his absence somebody’s got to play the role cause it’s still implicit in the system.

    re jds i was surprised to see his completion at 98%. watching didn’t think he was fitting in all that well and was crowding and forcing. i was thinking it showed why he hasn’t had a shot. maybe the numbers mean i’m wrong, but even though his numbers were good the flow fell apart with him on the field so maybe not.

    RE pinto…was it me or was he playing the ball out more like VV than VV is these days?

    re bartra…he was both reassuring and scary. in that way he reminded me of puyol for better and worse. however, again this was mallorca.

    re song…his adaptation is going well. he will be an asset to the team going forward in more than just spelling busi against lesser competition. he also did a great job covering for the cb’s mostly bartra.

    one question…what is pique doing taking a free kick?

    RE the defense. i think a lot of what kxevin is saying about the tolerance for risk both offensively and defensively is on point. what is most interesting to me has been to see that in retrospect was how conservative some of the choices guardiola made were. scoring is up and concession is up. this is a direct result of taking risks on both ends. some of this was forced upon the team as a result of personnel changes and some were not. i don’t really see how VV playing the ball out short less fits in with the changes either tho?

    for the psg game if he’s match fit i’d pick adriano to pair with pique. i don’t see how he could be match fit and sharp without any minutes, but his skillset and experience match better than the other choices.

    • ooga aga
      April 9, 2013

      pique took the free kick for fun. we were up 4-0 or 5-0 at that point. everyone in the stadium was smiling. and he didnt do too shabby.

      • April 9, 2013

        I was mad, though. he should have let Thiago take it, he’s really good at them!

        • Ryan
          April 9, 2013

          I was hoping Thiago would take it. He revels with them on the Spanish youth teams (that one with Canales is a fun set piece to watch)!

  41. April 9, 2013

    Awww poor Malaga. I really wanted them to go through. What a crazy game!! I have to say the officiating was pathetic though. For this level of football it is completely unacceptable that not one but two very obvious offside goals are allowed.

    • selfie barça
      April 9, 2013

      I think it was Gary Lineker who said that football is a game where two teams run after a ball for 90 minutes after which the Germans win.

      Offside goals are a disgrace to the governing bodies of our sport.

      Can’t really blame the officials though. It is almost biologically impossible for human eyes to focus on both the final pass and the position of the most forward attacker vs the defensive line.

      They should either allow video technology, or only accept linesmen that suffer from strabismus.

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